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Monday, March 4, 2013

Grand Circut Changes Change Little

I realize the changes made this year to the Grand Circuit was a first step, but in reality does it change much in harness racing?  Unfortunately not.  By including all open stakes in the Grand Circuit, all that has happened is it legitimizes the decisions horsemen connections make which is to bypass the smaller stakes for the  marquee events.  Now, don't get me wrong, given the choice of racing in a $60,000 stake versus a $400,000 event is an easy decision, but by including all these new stops, nothing is going to change the fact the big horses will be picking their spots to race rather than competing in the smaller events.. 

Yes, points will be earned for each start made in a Grand Circuit start, but the prizes for the overall champion doesn't seem so significant to get connections to keep racing their horses.  Connections will continue to cherry pick events, bypassing older events with smaller purses for the big events meaning races like the Reynold and Tompkins-Geers will continue with second and third string horses instead of gaining the top  horses in the country.

Rather than being too hard on the first year decisions, we will see what future steps will be taken to fine tune the new strategy and encourage horses competing in the smaller market stakes  A year end stakes race for the best performers is the way to encourage horses showing up to more dances, and not ignore the smaller tracks.

I realize the sport has changed quite a bit over the past thirty years but one of the worst changes has been the lack of horses dancing every dance taking on all comers.  It would be in the interest of the sport to return to that particular part of racing's traditions.

With payments cut, the Meadowlands Pace has fewer  nominations than ever with only thirty horses making the initial payments.  This makes the race likely to have a purse more likely in the lower $600,000 instead of the advertise $800,000.  Has the Meadowlands Pace lost its lustre?  The decline in the purse value certainly does become a factor but when you have other races in the $300,000 range with lower payments it makes it a lot easier to bypass these events.  This shows another way how slot money has changed the game.

Yesterday at the Harness Congress, a topic very dear to me was discussed; globalization.  At the session, the biggest hindrance mentioned was the problem with timing, in particular the issue of time zones.  For big day events, the key is to get races run where you can maximize exposure but for ordinary races, there needs to be away to get the signal out there for little additional cost so those who are willing to wager at off hours are able to; even if it means a bare bones broadcast.

Speaking of Globalization, as to emphasize the importance of making the American product more appealing, in today's Saratogian, Racing Secretary Don Hoover mentioned some of the places people were wagering on Saratoga's races from: Germany, South Africa, Saint Kitts, and other locations.  Granted this was probably ADW wagering and not wagering from retail outlets, but it goes to show you if you have quality product to sell, somebody is going to bet on it.

While there is no racing at the Meadowlands today, we will likey start seeing the impact of the Pennsylvania tracks once again as Harrah's opens up this weekend and Pocono Downs a mere two weeks later.  Will the Meadowlands continue its string of surpassing last year's handle on a daily basis.  As long as they can get competitive fields together, they should do okay for we have seen competitive fields do better than quality.  Now is where we will see how Peter Koch is at classifying horses with fewer horses available to race.  Will he be able to continue carding the competitive races he has been able to pull off so far or will short price winners become typical?


JLB said...

As an owner for 24 years temporarily on hiatus, I want to comment that it is not necessarily a bad thing that stakes like the Reynolds and Tompkin-Geers will attract second- and third-string level horses. I competed in the NYSS in the early 90's with decently bred horses, sometimes doing quite well with them. My competition was primarily upstate NY trainers with similar stock. Once the Takters, Toscanos, Burkes et al discovered the money that could be made in these lucrative programs, it became impossible for a small owner to buy yearlings or race-ready 2 YO's to compete against these big stables. Thus, if B and C level stakes are avoided by some of these Grand Circuit type barns, it leaves some money on the table for the rest of us.

Pacingguy said...

JLB, I understand what you are saying and you raise a valid point, but when I first started out, you used to have the major stables race their second and third string horses in these races so the public got to see the big names. Now, these races are almost like an everyday overnight.